Bruce Beetham
Bruce Craig Beetham was an academic and politician from New Zealand, whose career spanned the 1970s and early 1980s.

A lecturer at Hamilton
Hamilton, New Zealand
Hamilton is the centre of New Zealand's fourth largest urban area, and Hamilton City is the country's fourth largest territorial authority. Hamilton is in the Waikato Region of the North Island, approximately south of Auckland...

's University of Waikato
University of Waikato
The University of Waikato is located in Hamilton and Tauranga, New Zealand, and was established in 1964. It has strengths across a broad range of subject areas, particularly its degrees in Computer Science and in Management...

 and at the Hamilton Teacher's Training College, he was elected leader of the Social Credit Party
Social Credit Party (New Zealand)
The New Zealand Social Credit Party was a political party which served as the country's "third party" from the 1950s through into the 1980s. The party held a number of seats in the New Zealand Parliament, although never more than two at a time...

 (which he had joined in 1969) in 1972, at a time when the party was in disarray and many were questioning its chances of survival. A brilliant organiser and an electrifying speaker , Beetham succeeded in rebuilding the party, and by the late 1970s it was challenging the stranglehold on the two-party system
Two-party system
A two-party system is a system where two major political parties dominate voting in nearly all elections at every level of government and, as a result, all or nearly all elected offices are members of one of the two major parties...

 of the long-dominant National
New Zealand National Party
The New Zealand National Party is the largest party in the New Zealand House of Representatives and in November 2008 formed a minority government with support from three minor parties.-Policies:...

 and Labour
New Zealand Labour Party
The New Zealand Labour Party is a New Zealand political party. It describes itself as centre-left and socially progressive and has been one of the two primary parties of New Zealand politics since 1935....


Early days

Born in New Plymouth
New Plymouth
New Plymouth is the major city of the Taranaki Region on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is named after Plymouth, Devon, England, from where the first English settlers migrated....

 Beetham attended New Plymouth Boys' High School
New Plymouth Boys' High School
New Plymouth Boys' High School is a single-sex boys' state secondary school in New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand. It was founded in 1882 and celebrated its 125th Jubilee in 2007....

 from 1951–1955. He then went onto the Auckland Secondary Teachers College where he eventually acquired a BA (honours) in History and later an MA.
After joining the Social Credit Party during the 1969 general election
New Zealand general election, 1969
The 1969 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 36th term. It saw the governing National Party win a fourth consecutive term, under Prime Minister Keith Holyoake.-The Election:...

 campaign he was elected as one of the vice presidents of the party in 1971. Also in 1971 he ran his first election campaign, an unsuccessfully attempt for a position as a Hamilton City Councillor. His rapid rise in the Social Credit ranks was complete when he was elected Leader in 1972. He presided over Social Credit's
New Zealand general election, 1972
The New Zealand general election of 1972 was held to elect MPs to the 37th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Labour Party, led by Norman Kirk, defeated the governing National Party.-Background:...

 and 1975 election
New Zealand general election, 1975
The 1975 New Zealand general election was held to elect MPs to the 38th session of the New Zealand Parliament. It was the first election in New Zealand where 18-20 year olds and all permanent residents of New Zealand were eligible to vote, although only citizens were able to be...

 campaigns, in which they failed to get any members elected.

Mayor of Hamilton

In 1976, Beetham was elected Mayor of Hamilton
Mayor of Hamilton, New Zealand
The Mayor of Hamilton, New Zealand is the head of the municipal government of Hamilton, New Zealand, and presides over the Hamilton City Council.In the 2010 Local Government elections, Julie Hardaker was elected as mayor, defeating incumbent Bob Simcock....

 in a byelection to replace Mike Minogue
Mike Minogue
Michael John "Mike" Minogue was a National Party politician, lawyer and mayor.He was Mayor of Hamilton, New Zealand between 1968 and 1976, when he resigned to become a Member of Parliament...

, who had resigned to take up a seat in Parliament
Parliament of New Zealand
The Parliament of New Zealand consists of the Queen of New Zealand and the New Zealand House of Representatives and, until 1951, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The House of Representatives is often referred to as "Parliament".The House of Representatives usually consists of 120 Members of...

. One of his early ideas as Mayor was to finance municipal projects with interest-free "rates
Rates (tax)
Rates are a type of property tax system in the United Kingdom, and in places with systems deriving from the British one, the proceeds of which are used to fund local government...

 vouchers", but the council, dominated by his opponents, passed a 20 percent rates increase instead. His frustrations caused by political gridlock
The term gridlock is defined as "A state of severe road congestion arising when continuous queues of vehicles block an entire network of intersecting streets, bringing traffic in all directions to a complete standstill; a traffic jam of this kind." The term originates from a situation possible in...

, as well as the difficulty of simultaneously leading a national political party while serving as a Mayor (a post generally expected to be apolitical in New Zealand), were factors in his decision not to seek a second term as Mayor in 1977. Ross Jansen succeeded him.

Member of Parliament

On 18 February 1978, Beetham won election to Parliament in a by-election
Rangitikei by-election 1978
The Rangitikei by-election of 1978 was a by-election in the New Zealand electorate of Rangitikei, a predominantly rural district in the middle of New Zealand's North Island...

 for the Rangitikei
Rangitikei (New Zealand electorate)
rightRangitīkei is a New Zealand Parliamentary electorate, returning one Member of Parliament to the New Zealand House of Representatives. The current MP for Rangitīkei is Simon Power of the National Party...

 electorate, to fill a vacancy caused by the death of its long-time member, the Parliamentary Speaker, Sir Roy Jack
Roy Jack
Sir Roy Emile Jack was a New Zealand politician of the National Party. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1972 and 1976 to 1977, and a cabinet minister....

. He retained the seat in the general election
New Zealand general election, 1978
The 1978 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to elect the 39th New Zealand Parliament. It saw the governing National Party, led by Robert Muldoon, retain office, although the opposition Labour Party managed to win the largest share of the vote...

 later that year, and the Social Credit Party polled 16 percent of the vote nationwide, its best result to date. In the 1981 election
New Zealand general election, 1981
The 1981 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 40th New Zealand Parliament. It saw the governing National Party, led by Robert Muldoon, win a third term in office, although the opposition Labour Party, led by Bill Rowling, actually won the largest share of...

, the party polled just over 20 percent – the best showing for a third party since the 1920s, but fell short of its goal of holding the balance of power; its support was too evenly spread to translate into more than a couple of seats under the First-past-the-post
First-past-the-post voting refers to an election won by the candidate with the most votes. The winning potato candidate does not necessarily receive an absolute majority of all votes cast.-Overview:...

 electoral system in use at that time. The party, and Beetham himself, strongly promoted a form of proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

, but this was not adopted till many years later. However this saw the addition of Gary Knapp
Gary Knapp
Garry Thomas Knapp was a New Zealand politician of the Social Credit Party.He became Member of Parliament for East Coast Bays in 1980 when he defeated National candidate Don Brash in the 1980 by-election in East Coast Bays caused by the resignation of the sitting National MP...

 as a second Social Credit MP, meaning the party could make more of an impact inside Parliament itself.

In line with his party's policies, Beetham attempted to organize a barter trade deal with Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

. Prime Minister Robert Muldoon
Robert Muldoon
Sir Robert David "Rob" Muldoon, GCMG, CH served as the 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1975 to 1984, as leader of the governing National Party. Muldoon had been a prominent member of the National party and MP for the Tamaki electorate for some years prior to becoming leader of the party...

 vetoed the deal .

Political twilight

A number of factors resulted in a sharp drop in support for the Social Credit Party in the general election
New Zealand general election, 1984
The 1984 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 41st New Zealand Parliament. It marked the beginning of the Fourth Labour Government, with David Lange's Labour Party defeating long-serving Prime Minister Robert Muldoon of the National Party. It was also the...

 of 1984. One of these factors was Beetham's ill health. A major heart attack in 1983 curtailed his activities for much of that year and early 1984, and his disappearance from the public view made it possible for a new political party, the New Zealand Party
New Zealand Party
width=300|thumb|Party logoThe New Zealand Party was a political party operating in New Zealand. It was established by millionaire property tycoon Bob Jones, and promoted both social and economic liberalization. The New Zealand Party's motto was "Freedom and Prosperity", and it has sometimes been...

 (founded by millionaire businessman Bob Jones
Bob Jones (New Zealand)
Sir Robert 'Bob' Jones is a property tycoon, author and former politician in New Zealand. Growing up in the City of Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae, he attended Naenae College and then Victoria University of Wellington...

) to fill the vacuum. This party succeeded in attracting much of the protest vote
Protest vote
A protest vote is a vote cast in an election to demonstrate the caster's unhappiness with the choice of candidates or refusal of the current political system...

 that Social Credit had previously enjoyed.

Beetham lost his Rangitikei seat in 1984, mainly because of electoral boundary changes; suspicions have lingered since that the redistribution may have been politically motivated. (See: Gerrymander).

In 1986, Beetham lost the leadership of the party to Neil Morrison
Neil Morrison
Neil Joseph Morrison was a New Zealand politician of the Social Credit Party.He won the Pakuranga seat in the 1984 election by 419 votes, from two-term MP Pat Hunt. Garry Knapp retained East Coast Bays, but the party leader Bruce Beetham lost his Rangitikei seat.In 1986 Beetham lost the leadership...

 who had been elected an MP in 1984. The new leader, on the night he was elected, implied in a TV interview that the Social Credit national dividend policy
Dividend policy
Dividend policy is concerned with taking a decision regarding paying cash dividend in the present or paying an increased dividend at a later stage. The firm could also pay in the form of stock dividends which unlike cash dividends do not provide liquidity to the investors, however, it ensures...

 was out of date and would be dropped. This was in response to a question from the interviewer, which he might not have listened to carefully. The next day Mr Beetham said he was considering resigning because the new leadership was rejecting basic Social Credit philosophy. This promoted Morrison to publicly retract his comments, and affirm that of course the national dividend would be retained as an important part of Social Credit policy.

Beetham remained active in politics despite losing the leadership. He contested his old seat under the party's new name (New Zealand Democratic Party
New Zealand Democratic Party
The New Zealand Democratic Party for Social Credit is a small leftist political party in New Zealand. It is based around the ideas of Social Credit, an economic theory which also attracted some degree of support in Canada and Australia...

) in 1987
New Zealand general election, 1987
The 1987 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 43rd sitting of the New Zealand Parliament. The governing New Zealand Labour Party, led by Prime Minister David Lange, was re-elected for a second term, although the Opposition National Party made gains...

; in 1990
New Zealand general election, 1990
The 1990 New Zealand general election was held on 27 October to determine the composition of the 43rd New Zealand parliament. The governing Labour Party was defeated, ending its controversial two terms in office...

 he broke away from the Democrats and assumed leadership of a new party, under the old Social Credit banner; in 1992, he attempted to put together a coalition of centrist parties, the New Zealand Centre Coalition, but was overtaken by the course of events as numerous new parties were formed around that time and crowded out the political spectrum.

His last electoral campaign was in 1996
New Zealand general election, 1996
The 1996 New Zealand general election was held on 12 October 1996 to determine the composition of the 45th New Zealand Parliament. It was notable for being the first election to be held under the new Mixed Member Proportional electoral system, and produced a parliament considerably more diverse...

 as an independent candidate for his old Rangitikei electorate. Although placed fourth, he received almost four thousand votes – one of the best-ever showings for an independent candidate.

Personal factors

Bruce Beetham was known as a liberal on human rights, a conservative on moral and social issues, and a pragmatist on economic matters. He disliked confrontation, preferring to work for consensus in decision-making. He was married twice, and had four children. A resident of Marton, he died of heart failure in 1997 at the age of 61 in Palmerston North Hospital.

External links

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